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tv   The Last Word  MSNBC  August 18, 2011 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT

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here. and now it's a very important time i think to take notice, and ring more than a few alarm bells. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "the last word with lawrence o'donnell," melissa harris perry sitting in, starts right now. >> remember your worst day of high school, when your friends talked about you behind your back, your economics teacher threw in a surprise exam? at least you had summer vacation. yeah, politics is just like high school. >> there is good news and bad news. >> unemployment is high. >> transition to democracy in syria. >> republican candidates for president should be careful what they wish for. >> another down arrow. >> another dismal day comes to a close. >> focus on what he's talked about so far. >> a major address after labor day. >> want to hear more about the jobs. >> put americans back to work. obama aims to keep white voters onboard.
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>> only 26% approved of the way the president is handling the economy. >> he has been traveling through mostly white and american america. >> we want to be onboard too. >> i don't want to hear about another commission. >> i wish that the speaker had taken me up on a grand bargain. >> rick perry wants government transparency, so reporters are looking through his windows. >> they should open their books up. >> but the president isn't the only republican punching bag. >> the epa wants to call the shots, no matter how many jobs their draconian policies and zealous actions might kill. >> governor perry has criticized and stepped back from global warming. >> global warming has been politicized. >> are they distracting themselves with these other issues? >> i think it's going to change soon. >> still a scientific theory. >> the president left for vacation, but the right won't let him rest. >> he shouldn't be vacationing. >> romney has slammed the
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president for taking vacation on martha's vineyard. >> the former massachusetts governor will be there too. >> absurd. >> the presidency traveling with obama. >> i guess there will be golf and ice cream. >> you are right. >> he's going past that. good evening from new york. so what was your day like? here's what president obama's day was like. he called for president assad to step down in syria as the regime's violence against the syrian people rages on. the dow dropped 419 points and closed below 11,000. new reports showed unemployment claims spiked, home sales fell, and prices on gas and food went up. there's major economic trouble in the eurozone. and those are just the headline news items. there's also the justice
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department investigation into the s&p. new homeland security rules on deportation, fighting in libya between israel and gaza. and that's still just today. this is what a thursday is like for the president. in the meantime, he's running for re-election against 11 republicans, all of whom are attacking him for every move he makes, on every issue. >> better late than never is no way to conduct united states foreign policy. this is yet one more instance of president obama leading from behind on foreign policy. the president should have acted weeks ago to call on president assad to step down. >> i applaud the president for trying to go out and connect with the people with an economic growth plan. but he didn't find it. so i decided i'm going to give him mine. i already had an economic growth plan. >> and today is a fairly light day for campaign attacks, since heavy hitters mitt romney and
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rick perry were mostly quiet. look, this is the job. no one is asking you to feel bad for the president. it is the job that this president and all presidents sign up for. and most of them sign up twice. but it's worth remembering just how much that job entails, especially when the presidential candidates are going around the country promising anything and everything to voters. michele bachmann giving us $2 a gallon gas. they can do this because they are not in a position, and most of them will never be in a position, of having to actually deliver it. they won't ever confront the limits of executive power, or an intractable congress. coburn and obama are friends. here is coburn back in april. >> i think he is a neat man. i don't want him to be president. but i still love him. he is our president. he's my president. and i disagree with him,
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adamantly, on 95% of the issues. but that doesn't mean i can't have a great relationship. and that's a model people ought to follow. >> so this is his friend. and a constituent recently asked this friend, senator cobourne, if president obama, quote, wants to destroy america. cobourne, the president's friend, responded with this. quote, obama's intent is not to destroy. his intent is to create dependency because it worked so well for him as an african-american male. obama received tremendous advantages from a lot of these programs. all right. catching my breath. the paper reports that coburn went on to say that most of the country's problems were created by congress, and that, quote, i don't think that presidents matter that much. now, look, harry truman famously equipped, if you want a friend in washington, get a dog. the oval office is a lonely place. but there is this idea that the american president is some kind of superman with, shall we say, magical powers who can fix the
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economy faster than a speeding bullet, bend the congress to his will, and bring world peace while giving everyone tax cuts, protecting entitlements, and erasing the national debt, which is basically the idea that the presidential candidates are pushing right now. joining me now is jonathan capehart, "washington post" editorial writer and msnbc contributor. >> hey, melissa. that was incredible. i was watching intently. sorry for not being prepared. >> not at all. now, look, it is said that a presidential campaign is basically like a job interview, a very long one, right? and so we hired the president in 2008, and now his contract is up for renewal. this in 2012 might be sort of a job performance review. what kind of review do you think he's going to get from the american people? >> i think that the president is getting sort of a mid level review to almost negative review from the american people. if you look at the latest polls,
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particularly the one on his handling of the economy, where it's now i think a gallup poll where he is down to 26%. the gallup daily tracking poll has him bouncing between 32% and 31%, and all of the other polls have his job approval rating down to about in the lower 40s. and the american people are upset and they are angry and they are frustrated, and they are anxious. is the proper word. and so i think that they would -- if president obama were to come in for his review, they would say, buddy, you've got some work to do. >> undoubtedly. and i was looking at those poll numbers, i was thinking to myself, even as someone who is generally supportive of this president, it would be hard for me if a pollster said, what do you think about the economy, you'd have to not be paying attention to the realities of the world to give anyone a good grade on that. but that said, what do you make
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of senator coburn's comments about president obama? i honestly haven't been able to bring myself off the ceiling enough to make a cogent response to this. >> when i saw the comment, i thought, advantages as an african-american male? please, senator coburn, point out what those advantages are, because there are a slew of african-american men who would love to know what they are so that they can take advantage of them the way that president obama took advantage of them when he was -- when he was not president. i think what we're seeing here there though, and, you know, senator coburn is a decent man. i can't get into his heart. but he strikes me as a decent man, a nice man, not motivated by animus. he is just from a different political philosophy. when you look at it like that, i think what we are seeing here is basically the fundamental differences between progressives, liberals, and conservatives.
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you look at what he said in the clip -- or in the quote that you read, you know, conservatives think that governments should be small, that people should pull themselves up by their boot straps, and if they get into trouble, they should do everything possible to help themselves. progressives, on the other hand, think that, yeah, sure, if people fall down on their luck through no fault of their own, yeah, they should pull themselves up by the boot straps, but sometimes people need temporary help or some help from the government. otherwise, what's government there for if you're paying -- you're paying taxes into these programs and things like that? >> let me push back just a bit. i think it's easy to read coburn as a fully racialized critique, because i wasn't there also when they were passing out the black folk advantages, or to read it as you are as sort of a small government critique. but the fact is that the other part of the criticism coming today in this kind of obama against the world is maxine
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waters, congresswoman maxine waters, and many members of the congressional black caucus who would identify themselves both as friends to african-american politics, you know, so not motivated by race issues, and also as progressives. is obama sort of taking for granted that those voters are going to come to come along, and is simply focusing on independent voters, or is there something else we should be reading into that criticism? >> well, i think what we're seeing here is fascinating. what happened in detroit at that town hall meeting and congresswoman waters' response. for the first time, we are seeing african-american voters who by and large were telling their members of congress, don't you dare criticize president obama. don't you dare say anything negative against the president. even though they probably supported what their members of congress thought was, you know, the president should be held accountable on jobs and the economy and other things. so i think because the
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president's being pushed hard now by african-americans, pushed hard now by independents and moderates, pushed hard now by conservatives, what we are seeing is a president, as you said, who is basically under siege. but i do think that coming in the fall, especially when everyone comes back from vacation, we're going to see a different kind of president obama. and i think that the president obama people are looking for. >> it makes me happy not to be the president today. jonathan capehart of "the washington post," thank you for joining me. >> thanks, melissa. now, president obama will also while he's on vacation be working on an address that he's going to deliver shortly after labor day outlining his plan for job creation and deficit reduction. sources tell "the washington post" that the president will propose, quote, tax cuts for companies that higher workers, new spending for roads and construction and other measures that would target the long-term unemployed. obama also plans to announce a major push for new deficit reduction, urging the special
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congressional super committee to identify savings in the $1.5 trillion it has been tasked with finding. joining me now to talk about this part of president obama's task is "washington post" columnist and msnbc contributor ezra klein. thank you for joining me, ezra. >> good evening. >> you have been working hard today. maybe also as hard as the president. >> i don't know about that. >> so a memo by house majority leader eric cantor says, we have to put an end to this policy uncertainty, and that means we have to stop talking about new stimulus because we have no money for it. if the republican house is saying no stimulus money, what is the president going to be able to say that he can actually move through this house? >> well, he can't say much. he can give a speech, but i think we have found in the last couple of years, and political scientists like yourself have found over time, speeches don't do that much. they are great on tv, but they don't do that much to move members of congress.
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what i think the white house has to become more comfortable in doing, and there have been good reasons they haven't done it thus far, is using leverage in much the way the republicans do. when the republicans decided in 2010 they were not just going to come into power and give out their message, give some speeches, say the president was spending too much. they were instead going to use the debt ceiling, the potential of the government shutdown in march. the tax deal before they came into power where all bush tax cuts were going to expire. and they are saying, we will not move forward, we are willing to let consequences happen if we don't get our way. and it forced the agenda onto our territory. sometimes it's irresponsible, like on the debt ceiling. but things like the super committee, the president could say, i will not sign that deficit reduction bill that does not include immediate action on jobs. if republicans would say, then we're not going to have a deficit reduction bill and take $600 billion out of the pentagon, let them. >> the way you talk about leverage, it's interesting because it reminds me that one of the anxieties during 2008 was
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that then senator obama was going to be a chicago politician. >> right. >> but i actually hear you saying he should be more of a chicago politician. what other than the super committee or how relative to the super committee can he find that leverage point? >> the guy at the bully pulpit is not much of a bully. that is not his nature, i don't think. but there is the budget battle that will come later in the year when we need to do spending bills for 2012. this is the same battle that almost led to the shutdown in february and march. and to some degree, they can create their own leverage. they can be unwilling to move forward on other priorities until they do jobs. the truth of the matter is, though, and it gets to your introduction which was eloquent on this point, there isn't all that much they can do. people who want to see action on jobs would like to believe they have more power than they actually do. they cannot move congress, unless congress is the more powerful branch. congress has the capacity to put the pressure on the president.
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but where do the outside forces come from? today, morgan stanley came out with this report and said we're going to have fiscal tightening and that will create a policy induced slowdown. republicans might want to listen to that. >> so the president has to get to us on jobs, jobs, jobs, and that republican house is all up for re-election too, right? it's not just the president. >> true. >> ezra klein. msnbc contributor. and also sitting in for martin bashir this week. coming up, why cozy relationships between rick perry and his donors are something you should be aware of. and why would the americans for prosperity have an interest in cool board elections in wake county, carolina? that's what we wanted to find out. that's later in the show. [ male announcer ] get ready for the left lane. the volkswagen autobahn for all event is back. right now, get a great deal on new volkswagen models,
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so earlier today, jon huntsman tweeted about science. just to clear the air. tweet, to be clear, i believe in
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evolution and trust scientists on global warming. call me crazy. it is now the most retweeted tweet of any gop 2012 candidate ever. it also means we're going to talk about crazy. coming up. namely, all the other gop candidates who don't believe in evolution. who don't trust scientists on global warming. and who thinks our environmental protection agency wants to kill jobs. one of those candidates is texas governor rick perry. up next, why perry is under fire for seeming to favor his big donors when it comes to big deals. [ artis brown ] america is facing some tough challenges right now. two of the most important are energy security and economic growth. north america actually has
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last night, we fact checked texas governor and republican presidential candidate rick no relation perry's claims about his miraculous job creation in texas. today, a key member of the obama administration challenged perry's education record in the lone star state. it seems that texas students are suffering under the governor's leadership. education secretary arnie duncan slammed perry's handling of the texas school system in a news interview with bloomberg tv's al hunt. >> texas has really struggled, and i feel badly for the children there. texas may have the highest high school dropout rate -- sorry, the lowest high school graduation rate in the country. far too few are prepared to go to college. massive increases in class size. cutbacks in funding. we have to educate our way to a better economy.
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>> and it's likely to get worse. mr. no relation perry is using this year's budget to slash $4 billion from public schools. $46 million from the university of texas alone. and ut is part of the statewide system that's one of the largest in the country. perry and a texas think tank are pushing a plan spearheaded by a perry donor to overhaul the university system in a way that at least one dean warns will drive top students and faculty away. now, all of the members of the system's regents board are perry appointees, and among them, one of his top campaign donors, james dannenbaum. his engineering company has been awarded multiple state contracts, and he happens to be one of perry's biggest contributors, donating more than $320,000 to perry. and he certainly is not alone. with me now is mattia gold and a
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co-author of a revealing new piece on rick perry's biggest campaign donors. thank you for joining me tonight. >> thank you, melissa. >> your reporting found that of the $102 million of donations raised, $37 million were from the same donors, and almost half received tax breaks or were appointed to boards. who stuck out to you as the donors who enjoyed the best karma after sending checks to perry? >> to begin with, i think we were just struck by the enormous amount of money that perry raised, as you pointed out, from such a small cadre of donors. but what we discovered is there are really some pretty amazing benefits that these donors accrued as well. bob perry, a texas home builder, longtime generous donor to conservative causes, whose attorney helped create an agency that was supposed to protect
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homeowners against shoddy home building. it was considered so dysfunctional by consumer groups it was disbanded. red mccombs, a billionaire who gave $400,000 to governor perry and a racetrack he has invested in is slated to get $25 million in state subsidies. and the most fascinating example was harold simmons, who is the second largest individual contributor to governor perry. he gave him over $1 million in the last decade. and governor perry signed a law that harold simmons' company, waste control specialists, lobbied hard to pass which would allow a private company to operate a low level radioactive waste disposal site in texas. and then perry appointees then granted that single license to wcs. >> so obviously that is incredibly icky, and particularly that final one, the idea that there is a potential nuclear polluting threat that's given sort of carte blanche to go into this community, even
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after we have findings. but is there anything actually illegal about this donation and favors relationship, or is this just kind of how they do business in texas? >> well, we found no evidence of illegality. and i would say unfortunately for our system, it's not just the way they do business in texas. this is a reality of the world and our political system in our country. to varying degrees we see examples of this across the political spectrum. to be fair, president obama had dozens of contributors who got prominent positions as ambassadors or in his administration. but what was really striking, what we found in governor perry's contributors was one that they gave so much money to him, because texas allows unlimited contributions. and that many of the benefits they accrued were personally lucrative for them or their own individual businesses. >> so i think you make a really good point here, and particularly given that governor perry has been governor for so long. it's probably hard to find anyone in the state in business who hasn't at some point contributed.
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but that said, i know a spokesperson has said there's nothing particular that these donors got that other folks didn't get. all texans are treated the same. based on your reporting, and your investigation, is that an accurate statement? is it really true that there is no particular karma for these sets of donors? >> well, it's hard to know exactly how these donors would fare against folks who haven't given money without being inside the process. but what's clear is that in his decade, more than a decade in office, governor perry has really effectively remade texas through his appointments to these various agencies to create an incredible pro business climate. and so that to a large extent is one of the greatest benefits that some of his donors have accrued, and most of them are the biggest corporate leaders in texas. >> matea gold. thank you for joining me to talk about the guy who is not related to me tonight. >> my pleasure.
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coming up -- the new favorite boogeyman of republican candidates for the president, the environmental protection agency. [ female announcer ] we always try to save you even more money
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a little reminder that our country is capable of great change. 91 years ago today, the 19th amendment to the constitution was ratified. now, it is one of my favorite amendments as it guarantees women the right to vote. the 19th amendment is the result of generations of americans wh
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fought, were defeated, and got up and fought again. this amendment had been introduced over and over again in congress since 1878. the effort was led by women like susan b. anthony and elizabeth katie standon. but it took until may of 1919 for congress to pass it. and until august 19, 1920, to be ratified. and it passed by one vote in the tennessee legislature after tying 48-48. and that one vote came from 24-year-old harry burn, who said he changed his vote because his mother asked him to. from all of the voting women of america, thank you, mrs. burn. coming up -- what do the republican front-runners have against the environmental protection agency, an organization created by a republican president? congressman ed markey will join me on the topic next. ♪
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in the spotlight tonight, protecting polluters. it was a republican president,
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richard nixon, who established the environmental protection agency in 1970. it was another republican president, george herbert walker bush, who signed the clean air act in 1990. but this year, in yet another display of how different these republicans are from their predecessors, the republican presidential candidates are promising to dismantle their own party's environmental legacy. michele bachmann said that the epa should be named the job killing organization of america and has called global warming science a hoax. >> and i guarantee you that the epa will have doors locked and the lights turned off and they will only be allowed conservation. it will be a new day and a new sheriff in washington, d.c. >> now the texas governor rick perry has also said that the epa is a job killer and called for president obama to put a moratorium on all regulations for at least six months. this despite independent research that says environmental regulations actually create new jobs. in his book, perry called global
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warming "one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight." and now, even mitt romney, who proposed plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when he was governor of massachusetts, thinks that the epa shouldn't try to do anything about global warming. >> and do i support the epa? in much of its mission, yes. but in some of its mission, no the epa getting into carbon footprints and -- [ applause ] >> i just don't -- i think we may have made a mistake. we have made a mistake, is what i believe, in saying that the epa should regulate carbon emissions. >> joining me to help me understand why people are now running against clean air and clean water is congressman ed markey, the ranking member of the house natural resources committee. thanks for being here tonight. >> you're welcome. >> seriously, why have the republican candidates decided to bash the epa?
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i mean, have you seen evidence that this is really jobs based? do environmental regulations kill jobs? >> no. actually, environmental regulations create more jobs because it drives innovation. there's more investment from venture capitalists into trying to invent the new technologies which we use here in the united states. and then we export around the rest of the world. what's really going on here is there's a contest amongst republicans as to who can be the most anti-environment. for republicans, epa stands for every polluter's ally. and, you know, when rick perry says that he wants texas to be able to secede from the union, he also wants the union to secede from science. rick perry and these other guys, they are allergic to science. and too many of the tea party people who basically don't believe in science are now controlling a republican party
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that once had a long rich history. but now it is controlled by the oil industry, controlled by the coal industry, coaled by the industries that don't care how much harm they do to our environment. but even more importantly, to the health of the american people who will suffer dramatic negative health consequences from the policies the republicans pursue. >> i hear you on science. but i'm not quite sure that it takes science to recognize, for example, that texas is suffering through its worst-ever drought, and that rick perry as you've pointed out is not only sort of refusing to carry out greenhouse gas regulations, but his main response to this drought seems to be the designation of official prayer days. and for rain, right? prayer for rain. not that i'm necessarily against praying for rain. but i just think that if maybe there's some set of policies that you could pursue. you suggest that there's something going on with the republican nominee or the potential nominees here.
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what has happened to republicans since nixon, since george h.w., that makes it so difficult to have this conversation about science and about our environment? >> well, you know, science is an answer to prayers. praying itself is not going to make it rain. the drought is not going to be solved by prayer. what we need to do is just recognize that there are dramatic changes in the climate that has occurred. not only here in the united states, but we see the results of the ravaging of the environment in somalia because of climate change and the impact it's having on the people over there. what really is going on is for better or worse, the oil industry, the coal industry, because of large undisclosed huge amounts of contributions to this party, have now taken it over. they don't want oil companies to have to pay their fair share of taxes. they basically now have to say
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as a party they don't care how many times they have to vote that will actually result in a higher increase in asthma amongst american children. more pollution into the rivers of our country that will induce more cancers. uranium mining around the grand canyon. the list goes on and on. but all year long, that is what the votes have been of the republican party and congress because of the control of the oil and coal industry. >> massachusetts congressman ed markey. thank you not only for joining me tonight, but for your leadership and continued work on these questions. >> thank you so much. coming up -- north carolina's wake county board boasts one of the most diverse and successful school districts in the country. but now their conservative school board is changing that. that's next. and later, even though president obama may be visiting a popular vacation destination, the commander in chief is never really on vacation. and that's coming up. every day, all around the world,
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a school district in north carolina has become the frontline to keep and grow diversity in our nation's public school system. the issue, a now repealed action
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for the reduced lunch program. that policy, which was adopted 11 years ago, was one of the first of its kind to integrate schools on an economic basis after courts ruled against using race-based criteria. students were sent to schools throughout the system to ensure a healthy mix, and the result as reported by "the washington post" earlier this year is that over the years, both republican and democratic school boards supported the system. a study of 2007 graduation rates ranked wake county 17th among the nation's 50 largest districts with a rate of 64%. "the post" also -- who is african-american and the guardian of a niece and nephew who are doing well in the county schools. if they are with kids that are
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all the same, you have to be able to break out of that mold. you have to be able to step outside of your little world. then came the school board election of 2009. a group of conservative candidates campaigning on a platform of so-called neighborhood schools won a 5-4 majority on the wake county school board and swiftly began dismantling the integration policy using coded language from the civil rights movement. quote, forced bussing. first, a little background about wake county. it's home to one of the largest districts in the county with more than $143,000 studen143,00. the county itself includes the city of raleigh, urban areas, and affluent suburbs and rural areas outside of the city. 10% of wake county lives in poverty. it's home to the legendary wolfpack of north carolina state university and the historic shaw
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university, where the student nonviolent coordinating committee was founded. the committee did not take this lying down. wake county students, parents, community leaders are outraged and have protested the school board's effort to dismantle the integration effort. more than two dozen have been arrested at the school board meetings in the past, and now there are reports linking the coke brothers behind the americans for prosperity to the republican school board members who are actively pushing to resegregate the wake county schools. to be fair, it's not entirely clear just how much money the coke-backed americans for prosperity put behind the candidates in 2009. speaking out of both sides of its mouth in a statement just released, the afp says on the one hand, americans for prosperity did not spend one single dime on those elections.
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but every republican who helped repeal the wake county integration policy was endorsed by a local group wake cares. a group that according to its own website is working to provide equal educational opportunities to make wake to all wake county children. and according to americans for prosperity, they are on record as supporting the parents of wakecares through significant financial contributions and other support. the north carolina coordinator for meamericans for prosperity admitted to "newsweek" that his group did perform voter education and work on the campaign. suffice is to say the waters are murky. but a national group that supposedly has states rights libertyian ideals is meddling in a local school board, and that was once an example of how diversity and integration made
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every student better. and it's now being hauled back to a precivil rights era status. on a personal level, i spent nearly a decade living in north carolina. i still have friends and family living and working in wake county. in 2008, i was proud to be from the state that had seen sit-ins over lunch counter segregation to go blue in support of the first african-american president. but in the past few years, many tea party-backed north carolina republicans who came to office in 2009 have swiftly and viciously fought against the state's hard-won successes. these are moments in american politics when i have feelings of shock and wonder. now i know that historically towns, states, businesses and individuals have chosen to preserve racial segregation rather than reap the economic and social benefits of fairness and equality. but even knowing that history, i am dumbfounded that in the 21st
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century we have any state, particularly one as diverse as north carolina, that is willing to turn back the clock. now, as for the end game in wake county, that is yet to be decided. there is another wake county school board election on october 11. five seats are up for grabs. four of them are held now by democrats. that's every democratic seat on the school board. so in order to take back the majority, democrats are going to have to win all five of those seats in the next election. that's a hell of an uphill battle. and it's still unclear exactly who and more to the point whose money, will be trying to tilt the vote in one way or another. in an attempt to repeal the 20th century. coming up -- he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. the president leaves for his vacation on martha's vineyard and gets criticism from the predictable and not so predictable corners. why i say enough.
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at exxonmobil we know the answer is yes. when we design any well, the groundwater's protected by multiple layers of steel and cement. most wells are over a mile and a half deep so there's a tremendous amount of protective rock between the fracking operation and the groundwater. natural gas is critical to our future. at exxonmobil we recognize the challenges and how important it is to do this right. it's schwab at your fingertips wherever, whenever you want. one log in lets you monitor all of your balances and transfer between accounts, so your money can move as fast as you do. check out your portfolio, track the market with live updates. and execute trades anywhere and anytime the inspiration hits you. even deposit checks right from your phone. just take a picture, hit deposit and you're done. open an account today and put schwab mobile to work for you.
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president barack obama arrived in martha's vineyard today to begin his 10-day vacation on the massachusetts island. and while his trip may have just begun, criticism of the president's choice of destination and the fact that he chose to go on vacation at all has been going on for at least a week. today the massachusetts republican party issued this letter, a welcome letter, that reads in part, dear preso, thanks for choosing massachusetts as a break from nose spee those speeches you recently gave. and a presidential candidate and former government of massachusetts mitt romney took this job at the president on a radio station in obama's hometown of chicago.
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coincidentally, romney forgot to mention that he too will be spending time on martha's vineyard for an august 27 fundraiser. now the president is being attacked on two fronts. one is for vacationing on an afluent island. and while it's true that martha's vineyard is a summer home to many elites, it's also a place steeped in rich tradition of african-american and working middle class families to who found the island to be a bit of an integrated racial oasis. if they weren't so demeaning, the president's critics might learn something from the vineyard's history. the other part is that the president shouldn't be going on a vacation in a time of economic
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crisis. that doesn't stop congress taking vacation starting august 3. they won't be back in session until after labor day. now for conservatives who claim that family values are of the utmost importance, it strikes me as quite odd that they chose to criticize president obama for wanting to spend quality time with his wife and two daughters. yes, he is president. but he is also a father. and as a mom who just cut short my family vacation to report to work, hi, kids, the envy that i feel is that the president actually gets to spend these moments with his girls. now president obama has taken 61 days of vacation after 31 months in office. at this point in the presidencies, george w. bush had taken 180 day, reagan 112, bill clinton just 28 days. but even on vacation, it seems that the president's work must continue. >> there's no such thing as a presidential vacation. the presidency travels with you. he will be in constant
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communication and get regular briefings from his national security team as well as his economic team. and he will of course be fully capable, if necessary, of traveling back, if that were required. it's not very far. >> and when the president goes on vacation, so do some of the reporters. so joining me from martha's vineyard, nbc's kristin welker. thank you for joining me. >> nice to be here. thank you. >> what is the president going to be up to on this vacation? what does the schedule look like for president obama? >> well, according to white house officials, all of the amenities of the office really do travel with the president. so that means his communication equipment, his transportation that he needs, that means that he can be in contact with world leaders at a moment's notice. and as you heard jay carney say there, he will be in constant contact with his national security team as well as his
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economic team. so this really will be in part of a working vacation, according to white house officials. and from the perspective of a reporter covering this story, we will have briefings throughout this 10-day trip. it's not your typical vacation, melissa. having said that, there will be some downtime, some fun time with his family. just this evening, one white house official said, look, he is a father, he is a husband. he deserves some quality time with his family, as you just mentioned. so we will see these moments of him having ice cream, probably swimming, playing golf. i spoke with a presidential historian who said it's really important for the president to think about the fact that people are out of work right now. the unemployment rate is above 9%. so the images that come out of this vacation is important. it's important that america sees a working vacation. but we have seen criticism of presidents taking vacations throughout time. >> given that, how likely do you think it is that this president
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might cut his vacation short given these criticisms? >> that is something we have been asking white house officials every day. do you have any plans to change this vacation around? our latest report is no. that will only happen if something really big happens. if there is a crisis, if the president feels like he does need to return to the white house. and as you heard jay carney say there, it's a very easy trip, it's a short trip. so the president can go back if necessary. we also wondered if we would hear from the president, especially given the volatility on the stock market that we saw today. as of right now, we don't expect to hear from him, but this situation is very fluid, so that could change. >> nbc's kristen welker, bring me back a t-shirt. >> i will. done. >> thanks for joining me tonight. >> thank you. you can have the last word online at our blog follow my
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tweets @mharrisperry. shameless plug for my new book, "sister citizen," shoot out to my niece and mother whose birthday is today. >> happy birthday to who, your niece and your mother-in-law? >> that's right. >> happy birthday from the sh"t rachel maddow show" as well. and thank you to you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well. in the last election, the 2010 election, the democratic party faced the prospect of seeing their leader in the senate going down to defeat. the top democrat in the u.s. senate, majority leader harry reid, faced an uphill climb to get re-election, and that's putting it mildly. in addition to fighting through a bad state economy, harry reid also just faced a home state electorate in nevada that wanted him out. most of the polls out of nevada looked horrible for senator reid. nevada was just looking for somebody else to represent them.
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